Monday, January 7, 2008

Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira – Faces

Katsuhiro Otomo is an amazing artist. He is most famous for his epic manga and later animated film, Akira. Maybe you've seen the movie? Maybe it's grossed you out or traumatized you for life? If not, then you may want to check out the 6-volume comic book. It's a real treasure. The richly detailed background drawings just blow me away. More than the backgrounds, I am captured by the characters - with minimal linework, Otomo suggests great detail, and achieves are wonderful realness to the character's expressions. From frame to frame, you just can FEEL so strongly what the characters are thinking and feeling just from a static expression/pose.

For today, I'm only looking at faces from the Akira manga. Poses and body language, as well as many other lessons, remain to be studied at some later point. Onto the faces:

Day 18 - Akira - Faces

And some more:

Day 18 - Akira - Faces

Lessons Learned

I found copying pictures from the Akira manga very satisfying. There are lots of delicious details that you either learn or remember by doing this activity. I highly recommend it! I put letters near each of the drawings and I'll use them in the following notes to refer to the drawings. Luckily, I only did 26 drawings!

First, I noticed that Otomo really makes the part of your face from under your nose to the top of your lips very convex. That's just not something I ever noticed before. In some images, like E, the shape is very obvious. And it should be, since in that expression, the character is pouting, forcing the upper lip to bunch and create an arch. But even in more relaxed expressions, you can see the convexity indicated with subtly shadow lines. See images C, H, S, V. In these cases, just the contour of the shadow of the nose indicates there is an uneven surface. Amazing!

Comic book artists in general have a great sense of line weight: when to use thick lines, when to use thin lines. One of my goals in copying from Akira is to increase my own 'line-weight-sensibility.' I can't report on exactly what I learned, but one thing that stood out was the use of thin, often slanted parallel lines to indicate shadows on the face. Lines like that, if placed incorrectly can make a face look dirty or blushed. But Otomo has a wonderful ability to use these lines to give 3D dimensionality to an otherwise simply lined face. See images S and O.

Also with regard to line-weight, the mouthes seem to be the clearest demonstration of deftly placed thick/thin lines. The mouths are essentially soft triangles usually, what seem to be open mouths without any indication of teeth or tongue. I don't think the thick lines especially on the side of the mouth indicate any form-caused shadow or anything, but they do make it look cooler somehow.

Hair. I could have left the hair as an outline, but filling in the shape was fun! I outline a process for creating hair highlights in the second image. Who knows if that's how Otomo does it, but it was as close as I could get. First draw a halo in the hair, following the contour of the hair, then draw triangles (both up and down pointed ones) and then fill in the rest around them with black. I end up creating more triangles then I eventually leave white. I have a tendency to want to go overboard with the white space, but in the originals there don't seem to be that much and it really looks better that way.

1 comment:

  1. That's I do most of the time in the process of learning to draw. :D

    There's so much to learn from others. And Katsuhiro's works are one of my main influences. The details he puts in his gestures and poses is amazing.